"Pretty eyes, Pretty eyes!"

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“Oh! He’s a wicked man, who comes to little children when they won’t go to bed and throw handfuls of sand in their eyes, so that they jump out of their heads all bloody; and he puts them into a bag and takes them to the half moon as food for his little ones; and they sit there in the nest and have booked beaks like owls, and they pick naughty little boys’ and girls’ eyes out with them.” - Ernest T.W. Hoffman, The Sand-Man

I’ll admit, I have to read the story twice before I grasped the whole thing, but after I dissected it some and reflected on it…I couldn’t help but think of much this story reminded me of the stories/movies that I have seen about the Boogie Man.  I know, I know…you think I’m stretching huh?  Well hear me out:

1.       Nathaniel is tormented by a beast invented by his mother to make him go to bed at night, which obviously is when the Boogie Man (BM) makes his move.  Also, the myth of the Boogie Man is normally brought down through generation after generation by the parents telling their children his story by saying things like ‘if you don’t go to sleep the Boogie Man will come out,’ and ‘be careful when you walk in your room…he normally hides under your bed,’ you know, things of that nature.  I know that one time my dad actually hid under my bed and grabbed my ankles pretending to be him.  Yes, that’s the Wytovich spirit right there.

2.       In Hoffman’s piece, Nathaniel was so intrigued by the means of seeing the Sand-Man that he hid in a closet in his father’s room.  Now in the movie  The Boogie Man, the child gets locked in a closet and tormented by his demons thanks to our friend BM. He counts to tell slowly, and that is supposed to be how you make him go away.

3.       Another thing I found especially relatable was the fact that the supposed Sand-Man killed Nathaniel’s father in the beginning of the story, just like the BM slays both of the child’s parents in the beginning of the movie.

4.       Frankly, after noting some of these similarities right off from the beginning, I had a faint idea of how the story was going to end…in suicide. Clearly the circumstances are DRASTICALLY different here, and the plot is really in no way the same, but there is some distinct common ground between the two.

Ok, now that I got that off my chest, I wanted to talk to you guys about something I learned in my Media class last semester.  When I was reading this, specifically the part relating to Nathaniel’s relationship with Olympia (I personally liked the dead bride pun better!), it reminded me of the philosophical inquires of Edmund Burke.  Burke’s theories revolved around the sublime, especially when revolving the romantic, the obscure and the terrible/horror.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the dealings of the sublime, here are some base steps to break it down:

—  It’s beyond expression

—  It’s terrifying

—  It’s overwhelming

—  It’s at the limit of reason and expression

—  It’s beyond comprehension… but that in itself is comprehension

Also, here are some of the characteristics of being a romantic (these and the above are some of my notes from Dr. Wendland’s Topics in Media Aesthetics course):

 The Individual/Romantic self:

-Focuses on self expression; self exile, radical, no hierarchy

-Isolation: Can anyone really understand what I’m saying?  Desire to unite with a greater whole; go to nature for support, but does not mean that they want to lose themselves…this was the ecstasy of the individual connecting with themselves.

-Dynamic style of thought: restless contradictions, always asking questions, opposing forces was how they saw the world

-NOTE: The Romantic self was often a genius: gifted, rebellious, sensitive, tempestuous, and tormented; human striving, the attempt to be more than themselves; focus on the imagination.

In my opinion, I see Nathaniel as a romantic because he is withdrawn from his society based on his terrors and experiences as a child.  He grows up secluded on his own accord, and can never fully connect with someone because of his oppressed feelings of dread and deceit.  He seems to be very poetic (as romantics normally are) and often loses himself in his writing.  If you continue to do a character study and compare his traits with those I have listed above, I’m sure you will find countless similarities between the two.

With that said, I found it almost comical that he ended up “falling in love” (air quotes) with the robot, Olympia.  I think that he found her interesting because it seemed like he finally had someone that could understand him…simply because she knew not otherwise and could not speak…well much.  Finding out that she wasn’t human must have been a drastic plunge into depression/madness for him, because the world was now at opposing forces with one another once again.  Everything was obscure: his relationship with Olympia, the death of his father, the mysterious man Coppelius… where does one turn when the world makes no sense anymore? Madness. Suicide seemed the only way out for our character, which was also the path that most romantics typically chose.

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3 Comments

Jared Vickery said:

The strange thing is that Nathaniel already had a lover. He was supposedly manipulated into loving this robot woman by the evil boogie man and mad scientist. He didn't have to choose suicide because he had another lover. I think the madness drove him over the edge not the love. I do agree that back then, much lik in Shakespeare's time, suicide had this romantic element to it. Today we consider it to be a horrific choice that shouldn't be done at all, for love or insanity. Also like you, this story took some time to get, and I must say that I didn't enjoy it, which is unusual because I usually always carry something out with me.

Mike Arnzen said:

Excellent. I will be interested in hearing more about the Burkean sublime when we are discussing "The Uncanny" by Freud (which analyzes "The Sandman" quite deeply, as well).

Stephanie Wytovich said:

Sounds good to me! I adore Edmund Burke; he was by far my favorite philosopher that I studied last semester in both of my classes, and I think that he has a lot to bring to the table in regards to this story...especially when dealing with the sublime.

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